Ben Meyer

Special Topics Correspondent

Ben took the newly-created position of Special Topics Correspondent at WXPR in September of 2019.  He has a specific focus through his grant-funded position: reporting on water and water resources in northern Wisconsin and Michigan's Upper Peninsula.  Through his on air and online reporting, Ben explores water as a necessity for life and as an identity for the region.

Prior to joining the WXPR team, Ben spent more than seven years serving in several roles at WJFW-TV in Rhinelander.

Originally from Mount Horeb, Wisconsin, Ben is a graduate of UW-Madison. He lives in Rhinelander with his wife, Erika.  Outside of work, Ben is an avid Brewers and Badgers fan.  He enjoys doing outdoor projects, running, and competing in triathlons.  Ben is also a WIAA basketball official and calls play-by-play for Rhinelander Hodags sports.

Ben Meyer/WXPR

In this line of work, projects don’t start with a bang.

They end with one.

With a booming explosion on Tuesday morning, a portion of stream at the headwaters of Big Haymeadow Creek in Langlade County again flowed freely, a beaver dam blasted out of the way.

Jeremy Irish, an assistant district supervisor with the USDA’s Wildlife Services program, triggered the blast, undoing some of this year’s construction by beavers in the area. In the process, he cleared another portion of one of northern Wisconsin’s best trout streams.

Gogebic County has recorded a recent spike of COVID-19 cases, in part due to softball and golf tournaments being held in the area.

The Western Upper Peninsula Health Department says Gogebic County has more than 90 new cases of the disease in the last 30 days.

The department has traced exposures to softball tournaments in Marenisco and Mercer and a golf tournament in Watersmeet.

Other cases have been traced to attendees at weddings and funerals.

Ben Meyer/WXPR

Rhinelander has started examining options for treating PFAS-contaminated water being produced by two city wells.

Wells 7 and 8 have been shut down since last year after excessive levels of the chemicals were found in the water.

This week, Rhinelander Mayor Chris Frederickson said he and others are looking at options for a treatment system for the water from the wells.

The UW-Madison Trout Lake research station in Boulder Junction won’t be hosting its popular end-of-summer open house this year.

Instead, it has found a different way to involve the public.

Usually, station open house welcomes hundreds of people to learn about lake research projects.

But the COVID-19 pandemic has forced it to go a different direction.

USDA

People in Wisconsin and dozens of other states have been getting seed packets they didn’t request in the mail.

The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection (DATCP) is working to collect information on the trend and asking people to take specific action.

“Some Wisconsin residents have received these unsolicited packages in the mail that appear to contain seeds or other small items that people didn’t order. The packages appear to have originated from China or potentially other countries, as well,” said DATCP Communications Director Grace Atherton.

Marshfield Clinic now fully owns two additional hospitals in the region.

As of Saturday, Marshfield Clinic completed its acquisition of Ascension St. Clare’s Hospital in Weston.

It also bought out Ascension’s interest in Flambeau Hospital in Park Falls. Marshfield Clinic and Ascension had each owned 50 percent of the hospital.

The new names of the facilities will be Marshfield Medical Center-Weston and Marshfield Medical Center-Park Falls.

Marshfield Clinic also just built and opened a hospital in Minocqua.

In Monday's headlines:

  • An inmate disturbance at Lincoln Hills was controlled over the weekend
  • The COVID-19 testing site scheduled for Tuesday in St. Germain has been canceled
  • State logging associations are supporting legislation giving economic relief to timber harvesters
  • Birds at an Antigo rehab center need donations of meat for food
  • Marshfield Clinic now fully owns two additional hospitals in the region

Wisconsin Department of Health Services

Sheriffs in Oneida, Vilas, Forest, Langlade, Lincoln and Iron counties, as well as multiple local police chiefs, won’t enforce the mask-wearing mandate put into place by Gov. Tony Evers on Thursday.

Several law enforcement officials spoke to WXPR or released press statements, which are linked below. 

Ben Meyer/WXPR

A walk to the end of the Ashland Oredock feels like a walk out onto Lake Superior for Ed Monroe.

“We’re out amongst the buoys and the shipping lane,” he said.

What’s left of the Oredock--a slender tongue of concrete--juts 1,800 feet out from the city of Ashland.

Not long ago, the superstructure, a hulking mass of metal, would have risen 80 feet over his head.

During the Oredock’s operation, and after it was out of use, kids used to play out here, fishing and even jumping off the top.

Oneida County Sheriff's Office

A Rhinelander man now faces a federal indictment for trying to entice a child into sex.

A federal grand jury returned the indictment against Richard Duellman, 42, on Wednesday.

Duellman is accused of trying to meet up with a 15-year-old girl for sex when he was arrested last Tuesday by the Oneida County Sheriff’s Office.

If convicted in federal court, Duellman faces a mandatory minimum penalty of ten years and a maximum of life in federal prison.

Wisconsin State Patrol

State Patrol airplanes will be monitoring Highway 51 in Oneida County on Saturday, identifying people driving aggressively.

It’s part of a strategy to make Wisconsin’s roads safer.

State Patrol aircraft use timing devices and highway markings to determine vehicle speeds from the air. Staff on the airplanes then communicate unsafe drivers to officers on the ground, who can stop cars.

minocqua.org

Minocqua has canceled its popular Beef-A-Rama festival this fall.

It’s the latest popular local event to be called off because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Every year, Beef-A-Rama draws tens of thousands of people to Minocqua to eat beef sandwiches, listen to music, and gather with friends.

But in a video on Facebook, Krystal Westfahl, the director of the Let’s Minocqua Visitors Bureau and Chamber of Commerce, announced the cancelation.

Wisconsin Department of Health Services

Gov. Tony Evers said he’s “considering” a statewide mandate to wear masks in response to record numbers of COVID-19 cases in Wisconsin.

At least 30 states have such orders.

On Thursday, Evers told reporters his administration is looking at a statewide order, citing evidence mask-wearing helps slow the spread of COVID-19.

Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest

The water flow on a little creek in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest is modest.

In fact, the stream is small enough that it has no name. Officially, it’s Unnamed Tributary to Morgan Creek.

But on July 11, 2016, it was just one of the unassuming streams that heavy rainfall turned into rushing rivers in this area of the National Forest.

“Roads were gone. Bridges were gone. Culverts were gone,” said Jim Mineau, a hydrologist for the National Forest.

Oneida County Sheriff's Office

On Tuesday, the Oneida County Sheriff’s Office arrested a Rhinelander man for attempted child sexual assault.

Forty-two-year-old Richard Duellman thought he was meeting up with a 15-year-old girl for sex when he was arrested.

An Internet Crimes Against Children investigation led deputies to Duellman, said Oneida County Sheriff’s Captain Terri Hook.

“I’m sure, [on Tuesday], if there was a 15-year-old girl that met Mr. Duellman, we would have another victim, another child victim, of sexual assault by an adult,” Hook said.

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